Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where it all began for me: Collaboration, Planning and Goal Achievement

I have had some inquiries into my work background so I've linked to a resume below. Others have asked about my social activism history as well. So let me tell you a story...

After graduating from Dartmouth in 1991, I went home to southern New Jersey and worked with my father's non-profit. He called it the Atlanta Rural Development Coalition. He asked if I would start a Summer Youth Initiatives programs to keep the community kids active and positive during the summer. ARDC served a low-income population in the "sticks" of the NJ Pine Barrens. Recreation for the kids was an overgrown baseball field and a ragged basketball court. I started out with about 8 kids and asked them what they'd like to see happen in the neighborhood. Sure enough they wanted the ball field and courts to be fixed up. We wrote up a game plan. The community came together with some local businesses and together we had achieved that goal in 6 weeks.

Then they decided they wanted to go to Six Flags before school started back up. This was a REALLY big deal for them to travel nearly 2 hours to Six Flags Great Adventure. I had to figure out how to get a bus, food and ticket money in a very short period of time. The group, which had grown to about 20 kids, raked leaves and cleaned the streets to raise money. With donations and some negotiation with the school system, we took that trip to Six Flags. I still remember the look on their faces when we arrived at the park. Many of them had never been to Six Flags before. It was as great a moment for me as it was for those kids. I share that story because I want you to understand where it all began for me. This is where I developed my pragmatic, optimistic belief in the power of a people united.

That summer experience led me to work with a local youth drug prevention program which then opened the door to public service as a social worker in juvenile corrections. I would later volunteer as a court appointed youth advocate with CASA. My social activism was further developed as a certified Neighborworks affordable housing counselor. When I became Rockdale Chief of Staff in 2009, one of my first actions, was to write & secure a federal grant for nearly 3 million dollars to stabilize our foreclosure ravaged neighborhoods. That initial grant has helped create new housing for over 30 Rockdale families.  I am currently a mentor with Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta and a summer programs volunteer with 4-H.

There's plenty to be cynical about in the world and certainly in Georgia as a Democrat. However, I live my life with an eye toward possibility and potential not impossibility and limitations. I've always found success in working together with a plan toward a common goal. As your next Chair, that's what I want us to focus on as we shift our party back to the needs of the people. rj

RJ Hadley for DPG Chair - Professional Background

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